"We believe in being subject to kings,
presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring,
and sustaining the law."
- 12th Article of Faith, written by the Prophet Joseph
Why did God command Joseph Smith to enter "plural marriage"
in the 1830s, when bigamy was already illegal in the state
"Sec 121. Bigamy consists in the
having of two wives or two husbands at one and the same
time, knowing that the former husband or wife is still alive.
If any person or persons within this State, being married,
or who shall hereafter marry, do at any time marry any person
or persons, the former husband or wife being alive, the
person so offending shall, on conviction thereof, be punished
by a fine, not exceeding one thousand dollars, and imprisoned
in the penitentiary, not exceeding two years. It shall not
be necessary to prove either of the said marriages by the
register or certificate thereof, or other record evidence;
but the same may be proved by such evidence as is admissible
to prove a marriage in other cases, and when such second
marriage shall have taken place without this state, cohabitation
in this state after such second marriage shall be deemed
the commission of the crime of bigamy, and the trial in
such case may take place in the county where such cohabitation
shall have occurred."
The fact that polygamy was illegal is the
very reason Joseph Smith and his followers practiced it in
secret, and steadfastly denied teaching or practicing polygamy
when accused of it or when asked about it.
Revised Laws of Illinois, 1833, p.198-99
In fact, the 1835 edition of the "Doctrine and Covenants,"
which was the official edition during the Prophet Joseph Smith's
church administration, specifically prohibited the practice
Doctrine and Covenants Section 101, Verse 4
Joseph Smith himself affirmed monogamy to be the only form
of marriage permissible in his church in the church's official
"Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with
the crime of fornication and polygamy; we declare
that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one
woman but one husband; except that in the event
of death when either is at liberty to marry again." (History
of the Church, vol. 2, pg. 247)
"Do the Mormons believe in having more wives than
one? No, not at the same time. But they believe that
if their companion dies, they have a right to marry again."
-The Prophet Joseph Smith, May 1, 1838, as quoted in "Teachings
of the Prophet Joseph Smith", p. 119.
Can we believe that Joseph Smith's actions in marrying
at least 33 women, and having sex with many of them, between
the years of 1833 and 1844, indicate an effort on his part
to obey the laws of the church or the land?
And why did Joseph Smith, on May 25, 1844, deny having any
wives other than Emma Hale Smith?
Joseph Smith was indicted on charges of polygamy and adultery
on May 23, 1844:
"The marriage to the Lawrence sisters
became public knowledge when William Law, Joseph's second
counselor in the First Presidency, became alienated from
the Prophet. Law, who had known the Lawrence family since
their conversion in Canada, chose the marriage of Smith
and Maria Lawrence as a test case with which to prosecute
Smith for adultery. On May 23 he filed suit against the
Mormon leader in Hancock Count Circuit Court, at Carthage,
charging that Smith had been living with Maria Lawrence
'in an open state of adultery' from October 12, 1843,
to the day of the suit."
"In response, Smith flatly denied
polygamy in a speech delivered on May 26: 'What a thing
it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery,
and having seven wives, when I can find only one.' As
polygamy was illegal under US law, Smith had little choice
but to openly repudiate the practice. But as is often
the case with secret policies that are denied publicly,
Smith's credibility would later suffer."
must have understood that thirty-three or more marriages
could not be kept a secret forever, and that when they
became known the gulf between his public statements and
private practice would come back to haunt him."
Sacred Loneliness by Todd Compton", pp. 476-477.
Thus we see that not only did Joseph Smith commit the crimes
of bigamy and adultery, he lied about doing so. It was that
May 1844 denial which set into motion the events that led
to Smith's death one month later.
Furthermore, Mormon polygamy was never legal, at any
time - not even in the Utah territory from 1847 to 1890.
Marriage is a legal contract between one man and one woman.
There has never been a law enacted to allow otherwise. All
the married Mormons who emigrated to Utah in 1847 had been
married under the civil laws of their respective states;
each one of those states had laws against bigamy, thus making
monogamy the "common law."
The very reason Brigham Young chose to move to Utah, rather
than Oregon, California, or Texas, as others suggested,
was because Utah was an uninhabited "no man's land". However,
the area was legally Mexican territory and polygamy was
illegal in Mexico.
In the United States, marriage is a legal contract regulated
by the various states. When the Mormons went to Utah in
1847, all married Mormons at that time had been married
under laws of the states they had come from. Utah became
U.S. territory in 1848 after the Mexican War, and thus all
citizens living therein became subject to the common laws
of the nation, including marriage laws. (To use an analogy,
you get your drivers' license from your state, but it is
recognized as being legal in all the states. Marriage licenses
Once in Utah, Young attempted to establish the "Territory
of Deseret," and operate the area as a theocracy, under
the "Law of the Lord," which included plural marriage and
blood atonement. However, Congress rejected Young's attempt,
and in 1850, the area was officially established as Utah
Territory, with territorial overseers appointed from Washington
D.C.. President Millard Fillmore appointed Young as governor.
Thus, polygamy became specifically illegal under U. S. common
laws in 1850; but, since polygamy was also illegal under
Mexican laws beforehand, there was never a time
when polygamy was legal in Utah.
The 1862 federal Morrill Act was not the first law which
made bigamy illegal; it was merely the first law which specifically
reinforced existing state anti-bigamy laws. It was enacted
specifically to close the "loophole" that the Mormons mistakenly
believed they were operating under.
after the passage of the 1862 Morrill Act, the Mormon Church
continued to practice polygamy in violation of the law for
another half-century, and repeately challenged those laws.
So anyone who argues that "The Mormons stopped practicing
polygamy when it was made illegal" are either misinformed
or misrepresenting the truth.
final nail on the coffin which demonstrates polygamy's illegality
was when Ann Eliza Webb filed for "divorce" from
Brigham Young and sued him for alimony in 1877. Young successfully
argued that their relationship was "an ecclesiastical
affair, not a legal one," and the judge rightly ruled
that since there was never any legal marriage, Webb could
not file for divorce nor seek alimony.
Young himself admitted that his own "plural marriages"
were not legal marriages, that means that no other
Mormon "plural marriage" at any time was a legal
marriage either. No legal marriage licenses were
ever applied for nor granted, and every single child born
of Mormon "plural marriages" was illegitimate
- i.e. not born in a legal marriage.
of the federal laws enacted against Mormon polygamy from
1862 to 1879 merely served to force the Mormons to comply
with existing common laws. But the fact that those additional
laws were enacted does not mean that Mormon polygamous marriages
were ever legal in the first place.
the United States Supreme Court upheld the conviction of
a Mormon under the federal statute prohibiting bigamy against
a challenge that, among other things, the statute infringed
on the first amendment right to freedom of religion.
doing, the Court noted that polygamy had "always
been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe
and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost
exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African
U.S. Supreme Court described further that:
common law, the second marriage was always void (2 Kent,
Com. 79), and from the earliest history of England
polygamy has been treated as an offence against society.
After the establishment of the ecclesiastical [98 U.S.
145, 165] courts, and until the time of James I., it was
punished through the instrumentality of those tribunals,
not merely because ecclesiastical rights had been violated,
but because upon the separation of the ecclesiastical
courts from the civil the ecclesiastical were supposed
to be the most appropriate for the trial of matrimonial
causes and offences against the rights of marriage, just
as they were for testamentary causes and the settlement
of the estates of deceased persons.
the statute of 1 James I. (c. 11), the offence, if
committed in England or Wales, was made punishable in
the civil courts, and the penalty was death.
As this statute was limited in its operation to England
and Wales, it was at a very early period re-enacted, generally
with some modifications, in all the colonies. - U.S.
v. Reynolds, 98 U.S. 145, 164-65 (1878) (emphasis added).
point is, polygamy has always been illegal
in "civilized" western Christian cultures.
since the 1862 Morrill Anti-Bigamy act, the 1879 SCOTUS
Reynolds decision, and the 1882 Edmunds Act all reaffirmed
the illegality of Mormon "plural marriage," then
why did the Mormon God wait until 1890 to reveal to Wilford
Woodruff that the church needed to obey the laws of the
land which had already been in force for over 40 years?
if the Mormon God told Woodruff to obey the laws of the
land in 1890, then why did Woodruff himself "plural
marry" Lydia Mountford in 1897? And why did other LDS
general authorities secretly authorize dozens of other "plural
marriages" between 1890 and at least 1906? And why
was LDS church president Joseph F. Smith convicted of unlawful
cohabitation and fined $300 in 1906?
we must keep in mind is that Joseph Smith's "revelation
on celestial marriage," which introduced and authorized
"plural marriage," is Mormon scripture, even today
as Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
in introducing the "revelation on celestial marriage,"
Joseph Smith directly contradicted the 1835 Doctrine andCovenants
scripture which specifically prohibited the practice of
polygamy; and by practicing polygamy, Joseph Smith violated
his God's order to "obey the laws of the land."
have a little problem here. And Smith's Prophetic successors
as church leader Brigham Young, and then John Taylor, continued
to advocate and practice polygamy in violation of the law
for another half-century. And the LDS church's current edition
of the Doctrine and Covenants still contains the "revelation
on celestial marriage", which sanctions plural marriage.
did the founding prophet of the LDS church contradict and
violate his own "revelations", as well as the
laws of the land, by secretly teaching and practicing polygamy?
did Smith's successors continue to teach and practice polygamy
for another half a century, in violation of the laws of
practice of polygamy was wrong, then why did Joseph Smith
tell his followers that God
sent an angel with a sword to threaten him with death
if he did not practice polygamy? Did Joseph Smith just make
up all that or what?
on Mormon Polygamy
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